Plutopian Week: SomaFM, Orwell, Pinker, Musk

by Plutopia News Network
Rowdy Plutopians

Music of the Plutopian Spheres

‘Tis the season to talk about holiday music, and an opportunity to discuss SomaFM. SomaFM is an independent Internet radio station for browser-based or app-based listening, with “over 30 unique channels of listener-supported, commercial-free, underground/alternative radio broadcasting to the world.” This includes a cool and unusual set of five 24/7 Christmas holiday channels:

  • Department Store Christmas: Holiday Elevator Music from a more innocent time.
  • Jolly Ol’ Soul: R&B Christmas music. “Where we cut right to the soul of the season.”
  • Xmas in Frisko: “SomaFM’s wacky and eclectic holiday mix. Not for the easily offended.”
  • Christmas Rocks! “Have your self an indie/alternative holiday season!”
  • Christmas Lounge (our favorite): “Chilled holiday grooves and classic winter lounge tracks.”

If you’re not a Grinch and you’re into holiday music, you can find an amazing diversity of those tunes on various streaming services, enough to play holiday music 24/7 from now ’til Christmas with no repeats. Which would be crazy, or might ultimately drive you crazy… but we do have one practice we learned from John Aielli’s annual Christmas show on KUT/KUTX in Austin. Aielli would play a dozen or more versions of “Carol of the Bells” back to back. This is something you could do on a streaming service like Spotify or Apple Music – search “Carol of the Bells” and play as many versions as you can stand. (I’m seeing 1,000 versions on Spotify…)

Also noting “Ambient Jazz’s Quiet, Forceful Return” via Pitchfork (h/t David Demaris.) We’re thinking it’s time for a contemplative jazz form that is, per Brian Eno, “as ignorable as it is interesting.”

Plutopian Perusals

“Outside the Whale”: We’ve been reading this thoughtful essay on the tensions between political engagement and artistic freedom, considering the lives and work of George Orwell, Henry Miller, and Albert Camus. “Camus is particularly good on the desire of a writer to speak out, and the aesthetic compromise or damage that a political conscience can inflict on a novel.”

How many of us are inside the whale, protected from the problems of the outside world and engagement with the struggle to find political solutions? If a writer or otherwise creative person does attempt to engage outside the whale, what is lost? Much of this essay is about the question whether engagement with politics of the world is detrimental to the instincts and products of the novelist.

“I once asked my friend Christopher Hitchens, who usefully lived a writing life under Orwell’s spell, if he had ever thought of writing a novel. His reply was telling and one that Orwell might have liked. Hitchens told me he could never write a novel because he could never stop thinking politically.”

“Orwell, deeply engaged politically from the mid-Thirties on, stated time and again through the Forties how important it was for novelists not to tell their readers what to think. The imagination must be free. And yet he was the one who wrote the defining political novel of his, or of our, time.”

Plutopian thinking

On Steven Pinker’s new book, Rationality:

“How can a species that developed vaccines for Covid-19 in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing? Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are an irrational species — cavemen out of time saddled with biases, fallacies, and illusions. After all, we discovered the laws of nature, lengthened and enriched our lives, and discovered the benchmarks for rationality itself. Instead, he explains that we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others.”

Plutopian people

Elon Musk is the world’s leading utopian: “‘If there’s a utopia where people have access to any goods or services that they want, there’s plenty for everyone,’ Musk told Time magazine after being named the Person of the Year today. ‘If we have a highly automated future with the robots that can do anything, then any work you do will be because you want to do it, not because you have to do it.’

“In sum, Musk — remember, this is the world’s wealthiest person talking — characterized himself to Time as a ‘utopian anarchist.'”

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